Because capybaras are a low-profile attraction, zoos are notoriously slow to report any change of status regarding the capybaras on exhibit. I depend upon you to help keep my information up-to-date. Recently, several helpful people have reported that they have seen zoo capybaras!
As the owner of a small pet sanctuary I struggle daily with the security, maintenance, and enrichment of my own compact facility. As a landscape architect I am ridiculously critical of zoo habitats. Exhibit areas vary from leftover concrete bear cages with “swimming moats” and naturalistic murals in background to appropriately planted natural areas, so it’s fun to see photos of the different habitats. Zoo reports came in from Australia, Spain, Germany, Norway, and the USA.
Before we get to the zoos, you should hear some of the questions I get! Someone asked about Dobby’s favorite food- corn on the cob of course! Does Dobby have cube shaped poop? No, that’s wombat poop! And I am not providing samples at this time. Is Dobby waterproof? Clearly not from someone who has seen the video, and yes, he most certainly does pull up! I get a lot of comments when people who have enjoyed the video note the post date and then the life expectancy of capybaras. Dobby is no longer with us, of course. Still, it is touching when strangers, having just discovered him, are saddened by his passing.
Nicole wrote to report a wild capybara sighting. She was down by the Amazon River and saw them swimming and grazing. I am so jealous. No photo but somehow I believe her. Roblox wrote about a capybara sighting at the Robloxian Zoo, and I don’t quite know what to think of that one. No photo was submitted, so I guess it didn’t happen.
I had some disappointed Capybara Spotters. James went to the Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown, Pennsylvania but they no longer have their capybara. Likewise, Kristen missed the capybaras at Waccatee Zoological Farm in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. She was told that “they are loaned out for breeding.” It happens, but it’s a crushing blow to capybara enthusiasts, and one more reason not to go to Myrtle Beach’s roadside zoo.
Lucas saw capybaras in a smallish zoo in Madrid, Spain. Unlike the more traditional Madrid Zoo, Faunia features smaller but more unconventional animals. He didn’t send a photo but this one was available online. I see greens (and a Hostess Twinkie by his bottom) but no corn or watermelon.
Giovanna saw a capybara at the Santa Barbara Zoo in California. I thought they didn’t have them any more, so this is a step in the right direction! She reported “There was only one capybara that was sharing space with an anteater whose exhibit was next door (and who really seemed to enjoy pestering the capy).” Her photos show a solitary capybara who seems to be a little pouffy where the anteater follows close behind, so maybe they are friends. They do inhabit similar ecosystems, and an anteater is a better choice than a big tapir, which has been disastrous elsewhere. This zoo exhibit is the classic dirt and dead logs, no grass, no swimming area shown in these photos, but there could have been one beyond. The trees, low-growing greens, and shrubbery are carefully fenced off from the hungry rodents.
When I first started keeping track of capybaras in zoos, Australia had none. Daniel saw his at Toronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia this summer. “I think that they just had some water and sleeping area and that was it. They definitely weren’t spoilt rotten like the Japanese ones, haha!” It looks like a nice habitat, though, mostly grass, some nice shelters. No hot tub, true, but nice swimming and a very attractive duck in residence. Daniel should return to do the Capybara Encounter don’t you think? (see link above)
Bjorn has been globetrotting and has seen capybaras in two zoos. The first is Kristiansand Zoo and Amusement Park, Stavanger Norway. Check out that link and let me know if you see anything funny about it. There’s a link to a capybara video, but of course, narrated in Norwegian. Bjorn sent photos and it’s clear that this is a suitable habitat. In summer. Shall we send Bjorn back in January to see how they house them in winter?
Bjorn also visited the Barcelona Zoo, in one of my most favorite cities. He felt the capybaras there looked “a little sad.” Maybe I will have to go there and check it out for myself. There is at least one capybara housed separately, but I understand that completely. Anyone with a herd of guinea pigs knows that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. At least they can see each other, and sometimes that is the best solution. Once again, a non-grass solution for the main area. There is a reason why their name means “master of the grasses” in Guaraní, a language of indigenous people in South America. (Other Guaraní words we use are toucan, tapioca, and jaguar.) Anyway, it’s no Parc Güell and they could put a bit more effort in here.
Our final contributor, Sonja, opted for the personalized experience at Zoo Berlin in Berlin, Germany. “We saw, fed and got to pet capybaras – you have to pay an extra fee (80€) plus the entrance fee to do that though. It’s called ‘Lieblingstierbesuch’. I would absolutely recommend it. It was really awesome! At the moment they have two adults, three one-year-olds and three baby capybaras who were born in June. You can go into the enclosure with up to three people and the zookeeper answers any questions you might be having.” Her visit was posted on reddit but I stole the photos because they are so great!
Thank you, Sonja, for checking out Zoo Berlin for us! Look at this adorable video I found! Here are the baby capybaras she saw!
If you would like to receive a capybara postcard, visit a zoo- preferably with capybaras- tell me about it, and send along a couple photos. When I reach critical mass, I’ll write them up into a blog post like this one. You can contact me through the Capybara Spotters Club tab above.